New Books in the Arts & Sciences

Celebrating Recent Work by Sarah Cole

Wednesday, December 4, 2019  6:15pm The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room

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The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities

Office of the Divisional Deans in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

New Books in the Arts & Sciences:
Celebrating Recent Work by Sarah Cole

Inventing Tomorrow: H. G. Wells and the Twentieth Century
By: Sarah Cole

H. G. Wells played a central role in defining the intellectual, political, and literary character of the twentieth century. A prolific literary innovator, he coined such concepts as “time machine,” “war of the worlds,” and “atomic bomb,” exerting vast influence on popular ideas of time and futurity, progress and decline, and humanity’s place in the universe. Wells was a public intellectual with a worldwide readership. He met with world leaders, including Roosevelt, Lenin, Stalin, and Churchill, and his books were international best-sellers. Yet critics and scholars have largely forgotten his accomplishments or relegated them to genre fiction, overlooking their breadth and diversity.

In Inventing Tomorrow, Sarah Cole provides a definitive account of Wells’s work and ideas. She contends that Wells casts new light on modernism and its values: on topics from warfare to science to time, his work resonates both thematically and aesthetically with some of the most ambitious modernists. At the same time, unlike many modernists, Wells believed that literature had a pressing place in public life, and his works reached a wide range of readers. While recognizing Wells’s limitations, Cole offers a new account of his distinctive style as well as his interventions into social and political thought. She illuminates how Wells embodies twentieth-century literature at its most expansive and engaged. An ambitious rethinking of Wells as both writer and thinker, Inventing Tomorrow suggests that he offers a timely model for literature’s moral responsibility to imagine a better global future.

About the Author:

Sarah Cole, Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Dean of Humanities, specializes in British literature of the 19th and 20th centuries, with an emphasis on the modernist period. Areas of interest include war; violence, sexuality and the body; history and memory; imperialism; and Irish literature of the modernist period. She is the author of two books, most recently At the Violet Hour: Modernism and Violence in England and Ireland (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Modernism, Male Friendship, and the First World War (Cambridge University Press, 2003). She has published articles in ELH, Modern Fiction Studies, Modernism/Modernity, and PMLA, and has written essays for a variety of edited collections. Sarah Cole is the recipient of a 2014 Guggeinheim Fellowship for a book project entitled "The Wells Era." 

About the Speakers:

Victor LaValle’s most recent novel is The Changeling. It has been named one of the 10 Best Books of 2017 by Time Magazine and USA Today and was a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and more. He is also the author of Slapboxing with Jesus, The Ecstatic, Big Machine, The Devil in Silver, and The Ballad of Black Tom. He is also the writer/creator of a comic book, Destroyer. His awards include the Whiting Writers Award, a USA Ford Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Shirley Jackson Award and a British World Fantasy Award among others. He is also an Associate Professor of Writing at Columbia University School of the Arts. 

Jed Esty, Vartan Gregorian Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, specializes in twentieth-century British, Irish, and postcolonial literatures, with additional interests in critical theory, history and theory of the novel, colonial and postcolonial studies, and the Victorian novel. After receiving his BA from Yale and PhD from Duke, he taught for several years at Harvard and at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) before joining the Penn faculty in 2008. He is the author of Unseasonable Youth: Modernism, Colonialism, and the Fiction of Development (Oxford 2012) and A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England (Princeton 2004), and is currently at work on a new project entitled Cold War Victorians:  How the British Imagination Shaped American Power.  With Joe Cleary and Colleen Lye, he is coeditor of a 2012 special issue of MLQ on the topic of realism in postcolonial and ethnic US literatures; with Ania Loomba, Suvir Kaul, Antoinette Burton, and Matti Bunzl, he coedited Postcolonial Studies and Beyond (Duke 2005).  Esty has been a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Illinois; he has published essays in Modern Fiction Studies, Victorian Studies, Modernism/Modernity, ELH, ALH, Contemporary Literature, Narrative, Novel, and the Yale Journal of Criticism.

Sharon Marcus teaches at Columbia University, where she is the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature, specializing in nineteenth-century British and French culture. Her scholarship analyzes the cultural assignment of value in domains as diverse as architecture, social relationships, literary criticism, and performance culture. Marcus earned her B.A. from Brown University and her Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University, both in comparative literature. After teaching for many years at the University of California, Berkeley, she moved to Columbia University in 2003.  The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship, an ACLS Burkhardt fellowship, and a Guggenheim fellowship, Marcus is the author of Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London (University of California Press, 1999); Between Women: Marriage, Desire, and Friendship in Victorian England (Princeton University Press, 2007); and The Drama of Celebrity (Princeton University Press, 2019). Her many articles include a landmark contribution to feminist theory, “Fighting Bodies, Fighting Words: Towards a Theory and Practice of Rape Prevention” (1992), and the widely-cited “Surface Reading,” co-authored with Stephen Best (2009), which asked provocative questions about how critics interpret texts. In 2012, Sharon co-founded Public Books, an online magazine dedicated to bringing cutting-edge scholarly ideas to a curious public. With co-editor Caitlin Zaloom, she oversees a Public Book series at Columbia University Press. Her own public writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, Pacific Standard, The Boston Globe, Vox, and the Chronicle Review.

Alan Stewart joined Columbia in 2003, after teaching for ten years at Queen Mary, and Birkbeck, both University of London. His book publications include Close Readers: Humanism and Sodomy in Early Modern England (1997); Hostage to Fortune: The Troubled Life of Francis Bacon 1561-1626 (with Lisa Jardine, 1998); Philip Sidney: A Double Life (2000); The Cradle King: A Life of James VI and I (2003); Letterwriting in Renaissance England (with Heather Wolfe, 2004) and Shakespeare's Letters (2008). He has published over thirty articles in collections and journals including Representations, Shakespeare Quarterly, Renaissance Drama, Shakespeare Studies, Spenser Studies, and Textual Practice. With Garrett Sullivan, he is co-general editor of the three-volume Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature (2012). His volume of The Oxford History of Life-Writing, Early Modern, will be published this summer. With Richard Serjeantson (Trinity College, Cambridge) he is co-Director of the Oxford Francis Bacon, a new 16 volume edition of Bacon's writings for Oxford University Press. He edited volume I, Early Writings 1584-1596, with Harriet Knight (2012), and is now working on volume 2, Late Elizabethan Writings 1596-1602. Alan Stewart has won awards from the British Academy, the Arts and Humanities Research Board, and the Folger Shakespeare Library, and in 2011-2012 he was a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Since 2002, he has been the International Director of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters in London. He is co-chair with Cynthia Pyle of Columbia's University Seminar in the Renaissance, and a member of the University Seminars Advisory Board. From January 2018, he is chair of the Department of English and Comparative Literature.

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